How to cook the perfect plantains

Welcome to Cook with Lerato!

Welcome!

I realise the title Cook with Lerato is a tad incomplete, but I couldn’t think of anything more precise. This is a newsletter for those who love to cook, those who love to eat (to be cooked for), or both. Those who love to consume inspiring, transfixing, beautiful, delicious food!

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And now, back to the food!

This recipe is an important foundation for a lot of my recipes, and so I feel this is a great place for us to kick off this new journey with Cook with Lerato! One of my greatest pleasures is enjoying ripe roasted plantains. I am overcome with sweet memories of family and new memories created with you all whenever we cook together.     

It is with great delight and a sense of accomplishment that I teach (or rather, taught, pre covid!!!!) at least one person every week how to cook plantains. I am passing on a cherished piece of my family, our culture, the food we love to eat, and food that I hope you enjoy and will share with others. 
With this recipe, I am able to convince those who say, “I don’t like plantains” to give it another go, a chance to fall in love with it as I have. The most common cause of this conviction is that the first time they had it, it was soggy and greasy. Well, these deliciously golden nuggets of plantains are far from soggy and greasy.

How do you feel about plantains? How do you like your plantains? Let’s hash it out in the comments below, for better or worse!

Plantains are starchy cooking bananas. Green when unripe, yellow when ripened, proceeding to turn black, becoming sweeter and softer as they change. I much prefer them yellow while my late grandma Theresa (whose name I also bear) ate them green as part of her sugar-free diet while managing diabetes.

My mother loves to eat plantains on the go, whole roasted on open flames with roasted peanuts as they are commonly sold on the street of Lagos and across Nigeria. We call them ‘Boli’. 

At home, we would boil them, skin on, and peel afterward, served with an assortment of stewed greens - wild spinach and bitter leaves, possibly oil-free (I need to ask mum who is diet crazy!) with smoked fish. Now I adore eating boiled or roasted plantains with greens in a red pepper purée, cooked until quite jammy and sweet with golden browned onions. I think grandma Theresa would like my version very much, with smoked haddock or salmon and prawns.

Although delicious fried, I realized that after transporting the plantains such a far distance from the tropics, chilling them, and storing them in the shops, by the time they get to our homes (outside Africa/in the UK) they tend to ripen very quickly unlike anything I experienced in Nigeria. 

So I started roasting them when yellow, ripened, and slightly firm, keeping them crispy on the outside and soft inside when and more importantly never soggy or greasy. The warmth of the paprika and dry ginger is a wonderful accompaniment to the sweet but subtle banana-esque flavour of the plantains. 

Do try this recipe and I guarantee that you will absolutely love cooking plantains this way. If not, I really don’t know how else I can help you! But I will keep trying…And if you are thinking, “but where will I buy plantains? I have included links for next day UK delivery.”

Lerato’s Spice Roasted Plantain 

Ingredients

  • 2 yellow ripe plantains

  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil

  • 1/2 tsp paprika

  • 1/2 tsp ginger

  • sea salt flakes & freshly ground black pepper

You will need

Let’s get cooking

1. Heat your oven to 180˚C Fan/200˚C and prepare a roasting tray. Cut 1cm off the tips of the plantains. Make a light incision into the skin, cutting lengthways.

2. Peel the skin off. Halve the plantains lengthways and once more, cut each half lengthways in half. Finally, cut widthways into 2.5cm chunks and place them in a bowl.

3. Pour the oil onto the plantains, season with the dry spices, a generous pinch of sea salt & freshly ground black pepper. Mix well & place onto the roasting tray.

4. Roast for 25 - 30 minutes or until golden brown and tender. Test it with a fork while resisting the urge to eat them all. Remove from the oven transfer onto a plate.

Enjoy your golden and delicious spice roasted plantains with a green salad for a light lunch, or your favourite dips as a snack, with fried eggs, or in a coconut curry...or with stewed greens like my grandma and I would do. The possibilities are endless. 

Thank you for being here. You can share your thoughts by leaving a comment below. By sharing this newsletter with your family, friends, and colleagues, you help to keep us going. If you cook the recipe, don’t forget to share your photos using hashtag #cookwithlerato@leratofoods on Instagram

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Up Next: Eat your way to glowing skin with a recipe for a Rainbow Roast with Avocado & Almond Butter. I cooked this LIVE on Instagram with my friend & founder of Malée beauty brand, who’s brand sets an example in natural skincare, celebrating African natural produce embodying ‘Beauty with Purpose’. The recipe is so indulgent, it could almost pass for a face mask!

Dont forget to send in your questions for this week’s ‘Ask Lerato’ Q&A session which will be open to all subscribers. Send questions to cook@leratofoods.com or use the form below.

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